Community Planning: Methods
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Ideas competitions are a good way of stimulating creative thinking and generating interest and momentum. They can be designed to allow everyone a chance to put forward their ideas or be just for professionals.

Ideas competitions are normally held at the start of the development process or when there is opposition to a proposed scheme. They can be simple and immediate or highly complex.

A brief is produced, clearly setting out the task, entry format and deadline, judging procedure, eligibility and relevant background. The task can be to produce general ideas for improving an area or proposals for a specific site, building or problem.

Judging can done by a panel or through using a public voting system. Alternatively different organisations can make separate awards.

Winning entries are widely publicised and published to secure momentum for implementation.

George Street gap site, Hastings, UK,, 1989, Nick Wates.
Judging in public, by the public, on site
Judging in public, by the public, on site
Passers-by use sticky dots to register their preferences for proposals for a derelict site which are pinned up on the site hoarding.

Standard format Standard format

Standard format
Asking entrants to draw their proposals on prepared bird's eye view site outlines can help people make comparisons but may restrict creativity.

  • Getting the public to judge entries encourages people to present better and provides credibility for the winning entries. If you have a judging panel, make sure it is not dominated by professionals.

  • Specify a format which is accessible to non-professionals and easy to store and copy, eg A4 or A3 maximum. Models or large panels are good for exhibitions but difficult to keep, so photograph them properly. Think about publication from the outset.
  • Simple competitions for local sites can be organised very simply and cheaply. High profile competitions will involve considerable time and expense. Main costs: Administration; publicity; prizes; publishing end results. Plenty of scope for sponsorship.
Simple public judging rules
    Register at the desk and get your sticky dots.
    Each person has three votes in each age category.

    red dot
    red = first choice (3 points)

    yellow dot
    yellow = second choice (2 points)

    green dot
    green = third choice (1 point)

    Stick your dots on the entries.

    The entries with the most points by 7pm win.
    Prizes to be presented by the Mayor at 7.30pm
Two-stage competition format
Sample timetable for a fairly elaborate 2-stage competition combining an open competition for the public with a closed competition for professional teams.

    Jan Preparation
    Formation of co-ordinating body. Planning.

    Mar Printing
    Brief and publicity material.

    April Launch
    Widespread publicity. Detailed brief and conditions sent to those who respond.

    July Stage 1 deadline
    Stage 1 open to all with separate categories for professionals as well as for children.         

    AugPublic exhibition
    Judging by public or panel. Small prizes.

    Sept Stage 2 announced
    Limited number of winning entrants provided with a budget to develop their schemes further.

    NovStage 2 deadline
    Dec Public exhibition
    Judging by public or panel. Winners announced.

    Winning entries published.

Sample promotional leaflet
Open ideas competition
promotional leaflet

Last updated on: 9 August 2008